Sam: Dad, does the government have a fund to help in disasters like Japan's earthquake?
Me: Sure, Sam. There's an agency called FEMA that gets tax funding for exactly that kind of thing here in the USA. If we want to help other countries, we often send in military resources like ships and manpower to help with rescue and cleanup. Or Congress can authorize 'special appropriations' to send money. Someone just writes up the proposal and they vote on it.
Sam: If I were in charge, like the President or something, I'd just have everyone chip in one dollar every month. That would be, like what? $300 million per month? For a fund that would help so much. And it's hardly any cost. Just one dollar per person.
Me: Well you know, $1 dollar a month for our family would be an extra $72 a year in taxes.
Sam: Yeaahhhh . . . but if you spread it out to just a dollar a month, no one would mind paying it. That's like nothing.
Me: I'd support you, Sam. I think it's a great idea. I think there's a lot of people you'd have to work real hard to convince.
Sam: No. They'd support it. If they knew it was for such a good cause.
I had to bite my tongue to keep from going on a diatribe about the tea party being the latest incarnation of that selfish ilk that would reduce the size of government until you can drown it in a bathtub. Sam was just so sincere about the ability of government to help. I think that's great.
The next day I read this in Newsweek. And I'm kinda' torn. I think reading it would provide Sam a fuller context of political challenges, which is a good thing for him to see. However, I worry that it might push his wonderful, youthful idealism towards early cynicism about human nature and democracy.